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    by Mike McHugh

A Practical Skill for Home School Students
Date Posted: July 31, 2008

As a home school father, I often feel overwhelmed with the knowledge of how many skills that I need to impart to my children in order to prepare them for life. Now that several of my children are in their teenage years, I am now recognizing the need to add one more item to my “must teach” list --- automobile care and maintenance. In the realm of so-called practical skills, few are more important than the knowledge of how to keep an automobile working properly and safely.

Perhaps I am not the first home educator to come to the realization that teenagers are not naturally inclined to take car maintenance seriously, but this fact does not lesson my burden to any meaningful degree. Other than the excuse of generally being quite busy, I can not honestly say why I have been so slow to teach my children about how to care for the family car. Upon further examination, however, I will likely discover that part of my reluctance has been that I am prone to want to handle the maintenance of machines “all by myself”. The problem with trying to do such work all by myself is, of course, that this does nothing to prepare my children to master these important skills for themselves.

As I considered the topic of what car maintenance skills or information are essential to teach my children, the following points came to mind:

1. My children need to know how to check, and if necessary, how to replenish the level of oil in the engine and transmission of a car. They also need to understand the importance of using the proper type, weight, and brand of oil according to what is recommended by the car manufacturer.

2. Young drivers also need to know when it is necessary to have the oil changed in a vehicle. In most cases, it is recommended that a car have an oil change every six-months, or after it has been driven three thousand miles. Few teenagers realize that an oil change not only helps to extend the life of an engine, but it helps to improve gas mileage as well.

3. Teenagers should be taught how to properly and safely change a flat tire. They should also know how to identify if a tire needs rotation or replacement, and how to check the level of pressure within a tire to ensure that it is correct.

4. Everyone who gets behind the wheel of a car should know what to do in the case of an emergency on the road. In plain terms, this means talking about how and when to use things like road flares, flashlights, and first-aid kits. Young people, by the way, should be informed of the fact that one of the most important pieces of equipment to have on hand during an emergency is a cell phone!

5. Although this has little to do with safety, young drivers should know how to wash, clean, and wax a car. Taking good care of a car’s interior and exterior, will help to preserve a vehicle’s appearance and greatly improve its resale value.

6. All drivers should know how to inspect/replace windshield wiper blades, turn signal light bulbs, and air filters. Significant money can be saved each year as drivers take care of these routine maintenance chores for themselves.

7. Parents should stress the importance of keeping a car’s windshield, mirrors, and windows clean. Particularly during winter weather, it is vital for drivers to be able to see well as they move down the road.

8. All drivers should know how to properly lubricate door/hood hinges, as well as how to identify when these parts need to be lubricated.

Although there is obviously much more that could be taught to young people in regard to the subject of how to care for an automobile, nevertheless, if parents simply teach the skills listed above they will have given their young drivers the essential information that they need. When home school parents have succeeded in teaching these car care principles to their children, they would do well to spend some additional time instructing young adults on how to purchase a new or used automobile.

Particularly in the case of a purchase of a used vehicle, young drivers need to have special knowledge in a number of areas. For instance, no novice driver should ever purchase a used car without having it inspected by a knowledgeable independent party. Whenever possible, it is also advisable for people looking to buy used vehicles to obtain a history report on any car they are thinking of purchasing. In addition to these points, young people who are in the market for a used car should know how to look up the so- called “blue book” value on the vehicle in which they are interested. This knowledge will enable buyers to know what a fair market value is for a particular type of automobile before they actually consider making an offer to any seller.

In cases where parents simply lack knowledge in maintaining or purchasing cars, they should enlist the support of friends from church or their local community in order that they may provide tutorial assistance as needed. Home school students need practical skills every bit as much as students in traditional schools. For this reason, home educators must not neglect to take the effort to ensure that their teenagers learn the fundamental principles of how to purchase and properly maintain an automobile.

Copyright 2008 Michael J. McHugh

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Biography Information:
This column is written by the staff at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois. As a pioneer in the homeschool movement, Christian Liberty ministries has been operating a full service, K-12 home school program for over thirty years and a Christian textbook ministry (Christian Liberty Press), since 1985. The mission of Christian Liberty is to provide parents with quality, affordable educational products and services that will enable them to teach their children in the home and to train their children to serve Christ in every area of life. A more extensive explanation of the CLASS home school program can be obtained at
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